Baseball Preview: Cal Poly SLO

Cal State Fullerton looked like they had straightened out many of their problems after going on a six game winning streak two weeks ago that included a sweep at UC Davis. But, many of the underlying issues came to the surface in a dismal 9-3 loss to USC that resulted in a team meeting the next day that lasted several hours as the coaches and players cleared the air.

It was a different Fullerton team that played against UC Santa Barbara last weekend and outscored the Gauchos 27-9, handing UCSB their first sweep of the season with two lopsided losses on Friday and Sunday and a come from behind win in the 9th inning on Saturday that the Titans celebrated as if they had just clinched a spot in Omaha.  After continuing to play well with two  midweek wins against Arizona, Fullerton travels up to San Luis Obispo for an important series against one of the most improved teams in the country, the Cal Poly Mustangs.

Cal Poly went 24-32 in 2008 and finished an injury riddled season tied for 7th in the Big West at 8-16.  The Mustangs were predicted to contend for a regional spot this year but their season has exceeded expectation and they are 32-13 and ranked 12th in country by Baseball America and tied for 2nd in the Big West with Fullerton and Long Beach at 12-6. 

Cal Poly surprised the college baseball world to start the season by winning their series at home against Rice and they have continued to play well in just about every series since then with their only series loss coming when they were swept at UC Irvine.  The Mustangs have been especially tough to beat at home, where they have gone 20-2 and had their 18 game home winning streak snapped last weekend.  Cal Poly has been on a roll since being swept at Irvine, sweeping Cal State Northridge and UC Davis at home and winning 2 of 3 in series at Pacific and UCSB before winning 2 of 3 at home last weekend against San Francisco. 

The stakes will be high in San Luis Obispo this weekend with Fullerton looking to stay on track for a national seed and Cal Poly looking to move one step closer towards wrapping up their first spot in a regional since moving to D1 in the mid 90's.

OUTLOOK

This is the biggest series that Cal Poly has played since Fullerton played up there in 2005 and all of their attendance records were broken when there were 3200 fans at the Friday night game and 8500 fans were there for the series.  The attendance should be at those levels again this weekend and there will be a significant home field advantage for the Mustangs with the way they have played at home this season and the crowd they will have behind them. 

However, Fullerton has played their best baseball this season on the road and the Titans are 19-4 away from Goodwin Field so the team is not likely to be intimidated by their surroundings.  The Titans have traditionally played well against the Mustangs and are 41-8 since they moved up to D1 in the mid 90's and 14-4 against Larry Lee coached teams.  Cal Poly has had a knack for keeping things close in games despite mixed results from their starting pitching and then winning games late with seven walk off wins and five other comeback wins in the 8th or 9th innings.  The best chance that Fullerton has to win this series is for the starting pitching to continue to assert itself and keep the Cal Poly offense in check like Irvine's pitching staff did in sweeping that series when the Mustangs scored only 11 runs. 

Fullerton figures to be able to score runs against the Cal Poly starters the way the offense has been producing lately and the better the Titans starting pitching does, the better the chances are that Fullerton will be able to win this series.  If it comes down to a battle of the bullpens and the Fullerton pitching staff allows this series to become rock ‘em sock ‘em baseball Cal Poly will have a decided advantage and will likely win the series.